Tag Archives: spirituality

Pandemica

We have had a challenging year, challenging on so many levels. Thrust into uninvited change, most of us were forced to look at our relationships to our careers, to money, to our husbands/wives/partners, to our children, to our health, and, most of all, to the structure of life that we have bought into, played along with, lived according to. Livelihoods were, and continue to be, threatened, and we were all forced to look at the life decisions we have made through the lens of “Would I have chosen this if I knew I would be immersed in it 24/7?”

Speaking for myself, when everything kicked off in the first wave of the pandemic back in March and April, I had some hard days, days which made me come to terms with the fact that even the most hopeful and spiritual of us can lose sight of any deeper meaning, can lose sight of all hope, can wonder what the point of a human life is if the suffering experienced in it is unbearable. It brought up a lot of issues from my childhood, memories of carrying around dread, fear and a deep-rooted desire for something, someone, ANYthing or ANYone to just help me feel lighter and better. It was rough, both back then and earlier this year, in moments.

With all of that said, I know that so many people are happy to see an end to 2020, happy to wipe it off the face of existence, happy to refer to it as the worst year ever. While I understand why many feel that way, especially those who have lost loved ones to Covid, I cannot, even with all of the harder moments that I slugged through, jump on board the “burn 2020 into oblivion” train. This year was impossibly difficult to bear, in many ways, but the degree of that difficulty speaks directly to the value of the lessons 2020 had in store for every one of us.

I have been teaching students for years that we had been living in a Dark Age, that with all of the innovation, freedom and technology we had at our disposal, the only thing we were not being encouraged culturally and socially to do was to take care of each other. That one little detail had been conveniently omitted from the syllabus that we had been given for our Life Education, and that one little detail would have changed things drastically. It would have conditioned us to look beyond the superficialities that our governments and corporations use to breed division among us, and find commonality regardless of race, gender, religion, language, sexual orientation, financial status and all the other trivialities that we have prayed to as false idols for so long. I spoke in classes, workshops, podcast episodes and trips around the world about how something would happen that would affect everyone, everywhere around the world, simultaneously, something that would scare the living daylights out of us all, and in that moment, we would start to learn, because the shadow side of the human condition is that we do not truly learn when things are good. We do not learn when we have money in the bank, when we hit our ideal body weight, when everyone loves us and thinks we’re the shit, when abundance flows easily towards us and we feel like we are winning at the game of life. We learn when the shit hits the fan. We learn when the luxuries we foolishly took for granted through the lens of entitlement get jeopardized, when they get yanked away, and we have to finally examine who we are when all the frills and dressings get stripped away and we are laid bare to the world in our uncertainty and confusion. I knew something was coming, knew we were headed for something that would school every single one of us around the globe, but I thought it would be a world war, not a pandemic. And so there we were, caught up in our own little games of me-ness and ignorance until along came a pandemic. And what was the first thing we were told to do? Act as if we had the virus so we could take precautions not to potentially spread it and infect others, especially those more vulnerable. We were immediately told to take care of each other. The irony of the turn of events was not lost on me, trust me. Do I think that we will emerge from this situation having attained a new Age of Enlightenment? Probably not, at least not on the macro level. But I do believe that many of us have something of inestimable value that we gained from this year, something of beauty and true-ness that we will take with us for the rest of the lives we are blessed to live. We are more of who we were meant to be because of the events of 2020, and while many have been lamenting what they had to give up, it would be irresponsible of us all, including those same people, to not take stock in what we have gained from Pandemica.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of our frontline medical workers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned if we were not all navigating this pandemic together.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of teachers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned in any other situation.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the truckers and delivery people who kept goods coming to our local drugstores, supermarkets and other essential services when we were locked down.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the cashiers, stock people, counter people and everyone else who showed up for work when they were scared shitless to be working in supermarkets, drugstores and other essential services.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of taking care of our health, knowing it to be the most important aspect of life that we could focus on. When one considers how prior to the pandemic many companies and employers operated from the belief that showing up for work was more important than staying home when an employee was ill, one can only stand back in awe at how Pandemica set everyone straight.

I believe that we now know how truly interconnected we are, how quickly we can all find ourselves dealing with the same issues regardless of living on opposite ends of the globe.

I believe that we now know that most politicians, when faced with the task of preserving life or the economy, will align themselves with the latter. And you better believe that we now know that if we do not vote for politicians and political parties which prioritize paying our medical workers and teachers what they have proven to be worth in keeping society going when all else grinds down to a halt, we are shooting ourselves where it hurts most.

On a personal level, what I have gained from 2020 is the understanding that suffering is part of the human experience, and no one is immune to it. I have been reminded that in order to alleviate my own suffering, especially in darker days, it is my responsibility to serve others in the alleviation of their suffering, which, in turn, ends up alleviating mine.  I have learned that being able to hug my mom and my dad is a fucking gift, and I am aching for the moment I can do it again. I have learned that there will always be idiots and fuckwits out there, because everyone of us has sides to our personalities that align with idiocy and fuckwittery. As within, so without. I have learned that everyone has an opinion and feels entitled to blast it out into the world, but few of those people have the guts to stop criticizing and actually start acting for change. I have learned to disregard the wicked, as I was taught through my spiritual teachings, and get on with being part of the solution. I have learned that dogs and cats will inherit the earth, because without them many of us would have crumbled into pieces this year.

Most of all, what I have learned is something that is relearned, originally taught to me when a friend of mine died in one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, and that teaching is that anything can happen to anyone at any time. And because of that, because I incorporate that into every single day of this life I get to live, this year has reminded me that life is a choice. It is a choice between operating from the belief that I would get the virus and die versus the belief that if I was responsible and careful, I would not. It is a choice between choosing to be kind when anger or indifference might be more easily accessible. It is a choice between staying hopeful or hopeless. It is a choice between staying plugged into all media outlets versus disconnecting from them. It is a choice between seeing us all as one heaving mass of humanity versus clusters of “others”. It is a choice between accepting a term like “social distancing” when we should in fact be practicing “physical distancing”,  understanding that in times like these we need to be more socially cohesive and united than ever before.

Life is a choice. To live or not to live. That is the question. And so I choose to live, big and loud and not giving a flying fuck who has an issue with how I do it. But I live. And I care. And I will keep living and caring and being of service, doing this life thing exactly the way I want to, learning from all the hardship and trials. We all will, as long as we remember the lessons 2020 and Pandemica had waiting for us in our Higher Learning, the education life had in store for all of us.

Happy Holidays to you all. Happy New Year. We made it this far, we will make it to the other side. Stay well and safe and full of life.

True Warriorship

Over the past few weeks I have acted on, with intention, my disdain for the outgoing so-called president (my autocorrect tried to capitalize the P in president when I intentionally made it lower case for a reason) through the posting of memes and some thoughts written out to share. In doing so, I knew that I was leaving the safety of the wellness community’s ability to hide behind spiritual teachings that convince us that judgement is a bad thing and that we should be as impartial as a tree in the face of a storm. And as much as I know that approach to be helpful in certain situations, I also know that the oft-(un)well-ness community is also often guilty of spiritual bypass, the ability to hide behind teachings and so-called wisdom in order to avoid getting involved, using one’s voice in the name of justice, freedom, equality and fairness.

I will now use his name intentionally for the first time in four years instead of referring to him as he-who-shall-not-be-named. Donald Trump is, as far as I am concerned, an evil person. And if that judgement makes you uncomfortable, I invite you to unfollow me and forget our paths ever crossed. My concern in life is for the suffering of us all, especially those who exist in the shadows, those whose choices or whose accidents of birth and life set them on a course of adversity and resistance, all because of factors that they did not choose. One’s skin colour, language spoken, birth gender, faith, belief system, demographic information and path towards happiness and freedom should not dictate the facility with which they achieve said happiness and freedom. And yet, within the flawed construct human beings have created to exist together, those factors do. And needless suffering is the result of that.

My intention in life and my career is to alleviate suffering for those navigating murky, soul-crushing moments. It would only make sense, then, that anyone who makes that journey even harder for those already fighting for an iota of comfort and acceptance is going to fall into disfavor with me. Donald Trump had the opportunity to contribute to the healing and happiness of not only those whose journeys are already difficult, but to the healing of a nation and of a world being swept away in a torrent of intolerance. He chose, instead, to fan the flames of hate and division. To separate babies from their parents, parents from their babies. To ignore science when millions of Americans were falling ill with a deadly virus. To strip away the basic human rights that our loved ones need to remain safe and protected when humanity’s ugly head rears itself again and we fall into a spiritual moment of concealment, an even darker age of ignorance. Donald Trump did everything to reinforce the Hindu teaching that demons do, indeed, walk among us. And so when I post a meme that I find hysterical showing that little, traumatized man, a man for whom I can actually find an iota of compassion, because no one turns into the devil without being hurt by the devil itself, understand that I am celebrating the shift in awareness and awakeness in a populace that allowed this person to do so much harm for so long.

In the name of the women we love, our transgender brother and sisters, our LGBTQ+ community, our brothers and sisters whose skin color traverses the spectrum, our fellow human beings who pray to Gods we know too little about and whose mother tongues sound fabulously foreign to us, I celebrate this new era in the hope that the government-elect delivers on their promises to focus on freedom, inclusion, diversity and equality. I also understand that a troubling number of Americans did not vote for freedom and equality for all, and many of those people fall into the subcultures I’ve referred to. We are at a pivotal juncture in history, and you better believe that I will voice an objection when I see society’s most vulnerable put at even greater risk by those whose influence and so-called power could drastically improve life for us all.

As for the wellness community, do us all a favour and don’t use yoga or meditation or scriptures to avoid being part of the solution. It hurts the community, and is the farthest thing from what these teachings are meant to do. Find something else to hide behind.

All this to say that if my partiality has made you uncomfortable, I totally understand why. With that said, know that I will always champion those who navigate the path of light, truth, equality, happiness and freedom for ALL. Not just for one pocket of humanity, but for all humanity. I will pass judgement when evil is being unleashed and which contributes to intolerance.

We are on this journey of being human TOGETHER. Any other approach or attitude is, as far as I’m concerned, harmful. So let’s remember that we’re on the same team, regardless of the details we’ve been taught divide us. And do whatever we can, as efficiently and respectfully as possible, to heal those divisions.

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

In a previous episode of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast I read out a list of musings I had written down and compiled years ago, musings that I felt were helpful to keep in mind when navigating life. For lack of a better title, I quickly (and flippantly) names the list the Brama Sutras, not really expecting it to ever find its way to the general public. That obviously happened when I decided to read it for an episode of the podcast, and since I did, many of you have asked for the list written out, so voilà!

I have retitled the list Η Σοφία Sutras, as Η Σοφία (The Sofia) translates to “The Wisdom” from Greek to English, and it was in Greece where I felt compelled to share that piece of writing. The word “Sutra” means “thread” in Sanskrit, and so these are the threads of wisdom that, when woven together, can form a fabric of wisdom to keep in mind when navigating life.

Here they are, exactly as they were read for the podcast. Enjoy!

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

1) These words are your call to presence, to attention, to this moment.

2) Transformation is the only constant. Everything will change, from the greatest blessings bestowed upon us to the darkest moments we will survive. If it arises within your awareness, it is already in a state of transformation.

3a) This moment is more important than the ones that preceded it and the ones that will follow it, in this moment. This is true for each moment, as with each passing second, a new moment is.

3b) The present moment is your priority. What came before and what come after must be secondary to the present moment, in all moments.

4) Concentration on the present moment is a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is the practice of working with our thoughts. It is the ability to hone one’s attention in one specific direction, onto one thing specifically, for longer and longer periods of time. It is also the ability to be present enough to notice when the thoughts are focused on something and then redirecting the thoughts to something else.

5) Mindfulness is the art of awakening. Accessing this art requires paying attention. By paying attention, we begin to tune into a different frequency, and the more often we get into the habit of tuning into that different frequency the more we work at changing our experience of life.

6) This experience of life will be wholly and entirely dependent on our perspective and our ability to reframe a situation so that perspective is changeable and fluid.

7) Our unique understanding of “reality” is almost entirely based on our perspective, which informs the understanding we have of our environment and scenarios, of everything that arises within our awareness.

8a) Conflict may arise when one person disregards another’s understanding of “reality” in favour of his or her own, and then attempts to impose it.

8b) Harmony may arise when one person acknowledges and validates another’s understanding of “reality” while allowing it to coexist with his or her own, with no need to suppress the other’s in order to validate his or her own.

9a) Self-conflict may arise when one person adheres to his or her understanding of “reality” instead of welcoming alternate perspectives.

9b) Self-harmony may arise when one person welcomes alternate perspectives that reveal the relativity of “reality.”

10a) The experience of life will be greatly influenced by the honesty and transparency with which we assess whether we naturally gravitate to conflict or harmony.

10b) We have a choice as to whether our time is spent in conflict or in harmony.

11) The human brain, untethered and undisciplined, leans towards the negative aspects of our understanding of events.

12) We ruminate over the fear we have of the negative outweighing the positive in our understanding of events, which takes us out of the present moment and propels us into the abstract, into what is not.

13) Mindfulness is the discipline that allows us to focus on the opposite of the negative, the opposite of what scares us, the opposite of conflict.

14) Mindfulness practices are most useful in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15a) One key mindfulness practice is setting an intention to prioritize harmony over conflict, negative over positive. This is Attention to Intention.

15b) Intention must be prioritized over reaction in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15c) Intention is a commitment.

15d) Intention sets the direction that we commit to move in, the path we commit to follow, the behaviours we agree to override those that only serve to contribute to our suffering.

15e) Time spent without intention is time spent at the mercy of the meanderings of the mind.

15f) Time spent with intention is time spent closer to the energies of that which we wish to be in alignment with throughout this lifetime.

16) Setting an intention effectively and efficiently requires acceptance of what is.

17) Acceptance is the precursor for change.

18) One cannot efficiently move in the most meaningful direction without acceptance of what is and of what life has brought to our table.

19) Acceptance may involves grieving for what was once hoped for, but what was never meant to be.

20) The mind that practices meaningfulness is the mind that seeks to see beyond the literal, beyond the obvious, beyond the appearance of any given moment, person or object.

21) The practice of meaningfulness contributes to our ability to reframe our situation so that our perspective of it is altered. It aids in seeing past the seemingly random so that we find connections where, on a superficial level, none would appear to exist.

22) To find connections where previously none were apparent is to find meaning in the innocuous, to find a deeper understanding that possibly informs events and our relationship to them.

23) The practice of meaningfulness is the practice of finding meaning that serves us to align with the intentions we set for the time and events which await us.

24) Initial stages of practicing meaningfulness include asking certain questions in pursuit of a deeper meaning, questions like, “What am I meant to learn from this?”, “What else is occurring right now in this moment that I may be distracted from due to my mind’s negative bias?”, and “How can my experience of this challenge or moment serve to connect me to others instead of leaving me feeling isolated and alone?” Our perspective is everything. The way we see the world is the way we experience it. It really is that simple.

25) Reframing a situation aids in shifting perspective.

26) Shifting perspective helps us move from the limits of our own personal history and experiences.

27) Shifting perspective helps us move away from the default egocentricity we feed when we stay stuck in our own self-interests and self-awareness.

28) Shifting perspective helps us move from the I and the me to the us and the we.

29) Shifting perspective helps us find the freedom to choose a different interpretation and understanding.

30) Shifting perspective may lead us to growth and transformation.

31) Shifting perspective may facilitate turning the negative into positive.

32) Shifting perspective contributes to practicing meaningfulness.

33) We must never forget the kindness bestowed upon us by another.

34) We must immediately forget the wrongdoing or hurt bestowed upon us by another.

35) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering the blessings we are surrounded by.

36) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how fragile and temporal our blessings may be.

37) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how, in this moment, suffering could be considerably heightened, and appreciating that it is not.

38) The loss of gratitude is a key factor in the destruction of the affiliations and partnerships we have.

39) The practice of compassion involves the consideration that all beings operate in the midst of hardship.

40) The practice of compassion involves prayer and action for the end of all suffering, for ourselves and for others.

41) The practice of fearing less involves repointing the mind from the potential of the negative to manifest to the potential of the positive to manifest.

42) Communication is the foundation for the healthiest and most positive of affiliations and relationships.

43) Your story is worth telling.

44) Your story is worth observing.

45) Observing the narrative of your life without personalization will bring clarity.

46) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts elicited from observing your narrative will bring clarity.

47) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts that arise within you in any and all circumstances, contexts and environments will bring clarity.

48) You are the power of observation.

49) You are not what you observe.

50) There is just this, and it is perfect as it is

The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast

I am extremely happy to announce the launch of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast! Episodes will include lectures, interviews, occasional rants, and whatever else I feel like sharing with the world that deal with everything from spirituality to the most mundane aspects of this experience of life. Sit back, relax, and enjoy what has already been recorded, and what is yet to come. To access the Podcast page, click on the image below!

 

Use Your Words, My Love

This is not a time in history to fuck up in the public forum. Across the world, and even more specifically, south of the Canadian border in the country that tenuously holds onto the “land of the free and the home of the brave” title, a wave of intolerance has been gaining momentum over the past few years. A few months ago I watched the CNN series “The Sixties” and was somewhat educated on how politically unstable that decade was, and how volatile the fight for human rights made the 1960’s. I was pretty shocked to see that regardless of how far we think we have come since then, many of the issues people in the US were giving their lives for to see colour barriers come down and have all humans treated equally seem to be as present today as they were then.

With the current administration in America doing its best to divide people and their opinions, and in an age where those opinions have countless platforms through which they can be expressed, it is no surprise that the US is splintered and fragmented. Those whose history is made up of overcoming hate, genocide, slaughter, slavery, discrimination and dehumanization have every right to be on guard right now, as they do for the rest of time. There are those, goaded on by the president’s apparent refusal to out-rightly condemn hate and intolerance, who take to social media outlets with the sole purpose of instigating conflict. There are organizations with social media bots whose sole purpose is to do the same, resulting in human beings with the best of intentions ending up in Twitter wars with bots designed to amplify the conflict until emotional reaction erupts. We have every right to staunchly stay on guard and be as vocal as the troublemakers so that we continue to fight the good fight and ensure the freedom and happiness of all people.

Late last month, one of my childhood heroines, Roseanne Barr, posted a tweet that read, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” to her Twitter account, referring to Valerie Jarrett, who, among other accomplishments, was a senior advisor to the Obama administration. Rightfully so, within days, Roseanne’s career was over, and within weeks the show she had created and which was in a successful reboot was rebooted once again, this time without its namesake having anything to do with its new incarnation. I decided to boycott anything to do with her, and chalked it all up to her being one more casualty of this period of carte-blanche xenophobia that emboldens even celebrities to spew hate.

Today I listened to an interview she gave to her spiritual advisor, Rabbi Shmuley, in which she talked, among other topics, about her spirituality, how inexcusable that tweet was, how she didn’t know Valerie Jarrett was African-American when she wrote the tweet, and how sorry she is about making herself the poster person for hate, or, in her own words, “A hate magnet”. And as inexcusable and horrific as her tweet was, I found myself contemplating the concepts of forgiveness, right speech (written and spoken), the literalist global society that social media has fostered, and these hypersensitive times in which we must be vigilant to hate and intolerance, and in which, for the first time in my lifetime, we need to censor ourselves for any nuance, sarcasm or double-entendre that might get lost in how our words are received.

A few days ago Madonna posted a doctored photo to her Instagram account of a still image from Beyonce & Jay-Z’s new video, Apeshit. The image, taken from the inside of the Louvre where the power couple were looking at a wall of paintings from some of the masters throughout time, had album covers from Madonna’s body of work replacing the works of art, and the caption below written by Madonna was, “learning from the Master…lol”. Fans of Beyonce and Jay Z immediately took to social media to accuse Madonna of being racist by using the word “master”, alluding to its roots in slavery. Madonna removed the word from the post when the backlash began.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Madonna knows that she is anything but racist. But in this moment in time where we are all super sensitive and dealing with the free-floating anxiety of a US administration using its influence to set human rights back to where they were in the 1960’s, it is only normal that we hold each other to stauncher standards in how we communicate. It is only normal that we ensure that our celebrities be held accountable for how their words may be misconstrued or damaging to the communities and cultures who have suffered intolerable mistreatment and are now afraid that history seems to be on the verge, if not the cusp, of repeating itself.

Let me make something crystal clear for anyone who has the intention of taking my words and misconstruing them: I am not defending Madonna or Roseanne Barr. If anything, their examples exist so that we learn from them, so that we understand that we need to adhere to right speech, using words that successfully convey their intention. To not do that, in today’s social climate, is to invite in a tsunami of rage and indignance, understanding that whether or not we applaud or condemn it, this is where we are in time today, this is where we find ourselves.

Do I think that we tend to overreact to judgement these days? Absolutely. Do I think it’s sad? Yes and no. If I were African-American in today’s social climate, you better believe I would be alllllll over that shit, looking for the slightest bandwagon that the troublemakers could jump on to then use a celebrity’s name and influence to jump onto. I get it, and I think it’s an occupational hazard of all this turmoil that has risen to the surface of our collective consciousness. However, yes, I think it is sad that our ability to receive and appreciate sarcasm and deeper meaning is dormant. Yes, I think that it is sad that we are quicker to sling hate towards those who have transgressed instead of realizing that by doing so, we end up contributing to the energy that we object to so indignantly. Yes, I think that it is sad that forgiveness seems to be a concept of the past. Yes, I think that it is sad that we conveniently forget how timely the, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” passage from the bible is. Every single one of us has fucked up. Every single one of us has said things we immediately regret. None of us are faultless. Yet we attack other people from this high horse of superiority when they have a weak, human moment. I remind myself constantly that when I judge others unfairly, I open up the spiritual channel for others to do the same to me.

So what can we learn from all of this? I think that what we are meant to learn is to take greater responsibility for the words and energy we launch into the world, especially through social media channels. We need to mean what we say and say what we mean, and we need to consider how our words have the power to traumatize. We need to speak and write with right action, not emotional reaction. The same way sending that drunken text at 3am is a bad idea, so it is to express ourselves in the forum of public scrutiny irresponsibly, with no regard to how we may be negatively impacting others and making their load harder to bear.

Years ago, as I watched my sister-in-law deal with one of her young children who was being unruly by kneeling down to his level and saying to him, “Use your words, my love”, I made a mental note to do my best to do the same. It looks like we may all need to take a page out of that book.

When Your Accidents Of Life…

…result in having a face or body that our current culture deems beautiful, be humble.
…result in being far more talented than the rest of your peers, be humble.
…result in being born into a family with material abundance, be humble.
…result in having the privilege of not having to worry about being yourself in the world without facing resistance, be humble.
…result in anything that could be misconstrued as being better or luckier than anyone else, be humble.

The body, gender, family, culture, demographics, geographical location, skin colour, sexual orientation and time in history that you were born into, seen through the lens of some faiths and belief systems, are completely random, “accidents of life”, to quote Joseph Campbell. You can take absolutely no credit for any of it, and none of it is a valid measure of your worth. More importantly, stop judging other people based on their accidents of life. Be humble and consider that we have all been duped into believing that this literal, human experience is the sum total of the journey we find ourselves on. “Don’t be small-minded”, we read in the Ashtavakra Gita. “The universe exists within you”. Don’t be duped by illusion, by the appearances your limited senses can interpret. The packaging is simply the container for what you should really get to know, which is the spark of energy that is, truly, who and what we are. Seek that out in others and you will not only get to know who they really are, but you will be making connections that transcend what divides and separates us.

Authoring A New Year

As the cycle that was named “2017” comes to its end, and “2018” makes its entrance, here are some intentions to commit to instead of relegating to the realm of the forgotten after a few weeks into the new year.

1) Do your best, as often as possible, to focus on what’s going well instead of what seems to be going wrong. Do this more often when things seem dismal or hopeless. This is it. It’s now. The good and the bad, the uplifting and the horrifying, the light and the dark. It’s all occurring simultaneously. Despite everything that we object to, we have the choice as to whether we spend all our time obsessing over the infuriating or whether we remember to also focus on what co-exists with the infuriating, which is the beauty, the kindness, the connection and the love we all seek.

2) Balance out the time you spend doing with the time you spend being. This means letting yourself have the down-time, or “gap-time” (to quote my late teacher Joan Ruvinsky), necessary to change your thought and behavioural patterns from the constant rhythm they are used to. Let me clear here, this does not mean incorporating some practice you think you should be doing, like meditation or yoga, if that practice will simply be something else you do, but which does not facilitate unplugging from everything else you do. Let yourself simply be, as yourself, with nothing else to do, with nothing else to fix.

3) Make more and more time in your schedules to put your passions ahead of your obligations, and do this consistently and unwaveringly.

4) Welcome all adversity and fear as the life lessons in which you are meant to learn what you’ll need to be armed with for future stages of your journey. Instead of putting the blinders on and just trying to survive through life’s darkest moments, infuse light into them by understanding that you have a choice as to how you respond to them. You do not have to be held hostage by them. Take a deep breath, face what has manifested with your head held high, and keep asking yourself, “What am I meant to learn from this?”, because there is always something to glean from what induces suffering.

5) Disregard what other people believe are “best practices.” Best practices are for sheep who want to conform to other people’s structures and rules in order to attain what is deemed as success in other people’s eyes. Do it your way, how you feel compelled to make it happen, whatever it is.

6) One of life’s truths is that not everyone does their best to be kind, to be generous, to uplift and inspire in the name of the betterment of the world. Some people are just hell-bent on contributing to chaos and destruction. Recognize these people, especially when they present themselves as part of the solution in order to get more power with which to destroy. Recognize them, call them out, speak up against them, keep a watchful eye on them, and then disregard them. They would like us all to focus on them, because any attention is better than no attention. Don’t let them disrupt your peace, your contentment, your intention to be part of the solution.

7) Be kinder.

8) Laugh more and laugh harder.

9) Speak your truth and speak up if you’re not being heard.

10) Consider that these days are golden. Appreciate them, regardless of everything you may believe is going wrong.

All the best for a happy, healthy year ahead!

We’re Still Here – One Night Only with Bram Levinson at the Rialto Theatre

I am beyond excited to finally announce that I will be doing my own show/speaking engagement at the historic Rialto Theatre in Montreal! After years of lecturing in yoga studios, convention centers and festivals, I’m proud to bring what I do to the theatre, especially one that has played a part in my life and is a Montreal landmark and institution.

Event description:

For one night only, Montreal-based author and teacher Bram Levinson is taking his wisdom, irreverence and humour to the stage. Join him for an evening of insight, laughter and exploration into life, family, love and what it means to be spiritually awake in today’s world. Brandishing his usual refreshing, deeply personal, edgy approach and sense of humour, stories will be told, wisdom will be shared through his experiences and perspective, and inspiration will be what’s left after everything is said and done. Don’t miss this one night with Bram at the historical Rialto Theatre!

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Doors Open: 19h/7pm
Show Time: 19h30/7:30pm

Box Office/Tickets: $40+taxes, available through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/were-still-here-one-night-only-with-bram-levinson-tickets-38155077865

Special thanks to Mandy’s, the sole sponsor for this event!

Photos courtesy of John Dabarno Photography,
https://www.smashingpixel.com/blog/rialtotheatre

My Work

I don't want to deal with the state of today's world.

I don't want to find excuses or justifications for what I object to, to the injustices that seem to be becoming more and more commonplace, simply to quell my dumbfoundedness and indignation. I don't want to judge, and I don't want to call myself on my judgements because I know that there's already too much judgement being slung around like stones at a stoning. I don't want to placate myself by attempting to cultivate patience as I wait for the world leaders who are abusing their power to fall into the annals of history. I don't want to see the virtuous and the kind suffer, and I don't want to see those that think solely of themselves, with no regard for the well being of others, effortlessly float through existence. I don't want to see the ignorant venom that gets spewed out in 140 characters or less, and I don't want to see my fellow humans get to the end of their lives believing that what they learn through news channels about other faiths, beliefs and points of view is a proper education.

There's a lot I don't want. But like it or not, this is. It all is, undeniably. And I have a choice as to whether I'm going to rant and rave and object and age into a curmudgeonly, bitter man, or if I'm going to do everything I can to work with my own feelings of anger, disbelief, disappointment and fear so that I acknowledge and experience them fully, and then occasionally alter those vibrations into different ones that lift my spirits. I have a choice as to whether the sensations my body experiences day in and day out are "negative" and harmful, or whether they soothe my senses and help to prioritize calm and clarity above all else. I have a choice as to what I focus on, understanding that the object of my attention will dictate the quality of my experience of every single moment.

And so, I pick my battles. I do great things for other people. I help other people with their most difficult obstacles. I bring laughter to situations that are laughable, even when they're tragically so. I elevate others. I am kind to myself. I make time to do whatever the hell I want for myself to balance out the time and effort I dedicate to my work and mission. I balance discipline and comfort, finally understanding how necessary they both are.

I accept the state of today's world, don't get me wrong. But I am hell-bent on making sure it doesn't get the better of me. More so, I do what I can, exceeding personal expectations, to make this world a better place. It's the only thing I can realistically do.

That's my work.

Yoga, Spirituality & Gender: Interview with Lina Bradford

One of the facets of the Hindu and Yogic teachings that not only resonates with me, but which I find glaringly relevant today, is the reidentification of Self. In multiple scriptures we are taught that identifying with appearances (specifically the bodies we inhabit) equates with ignorance and the wise know to identify with the energy that animates them. We are taught that we are not our bodies, but rather the spark of energy that is embodied by them, a concept that seems to inform and shed light on the journey of many transgender children and adults alike. This teaching is something I learned decades ago before my studies in spirituality began, and my “teacher” was one of the most vibrant and unique people I have ever known.

In 1992 I was going out to clubs in Montreal with my then-partner and our circle of friends, and it was in a club one night that I saw one of the dancers up on a speaker doing her thing like no one was watching. She was sleek and lithe, looking like a glamazon character from the not-so-recent past, and she was PERFORMING. Whereas the other hired dancers were doing their best to not fall off their perches, this girl was working that platform like she was onstage at Madison Square Garden. She was lip synching to the songs, interacting with the crowd on the dance floor, and I. Was. Mesmerized. I had never seen such raw talent before, never been so captivated by someone who so obviously had that “it” factor that stars are made of. In fact, the first time I ever saw Beyoncé perform I thought, “I’ve seen this act before.” The moves, the attitude, the presence, the energy, all of it was done before. And I had seen it with my own eyes, mere feet away from the spectacle.

After casually speaking to her for a while, my friends and I eventually became good friends with the girl who would become known as Girlina to the 1990’s New York City Club Kid community, and who would later morph into Lina Bradford.

Meeting Lina all those years ago was part of my education in gender identity, in truly seeing someone as their personality and how it expressed itself, as opposed to the gender of the body it animated. I had seen drag queens perform at that point in my life, and had appreciated the good ones who had real stage presence. But seeing Lina perform was something entirely different. She was no drag queen. This was no drag. There was no exaggerated flamboyance. Every single time I saw her, whether on a stage or getting ready for bed when I slept over at her place after ordering dirty pizza at 3AM, she was unapologetically herself. Feminine energy with a masculine bite to her sense of humour, compassionate, loving, street-smart and worldly, Lina joked that she was a “gender illusionist,” but the term was really just a tool for those who didn’t know how to wrap their brains around her brilliance. Even her languaging, the way she spoke, was so unique, her vocabulary so of her own invention, that it became known as “girlingo” in the 90’s club circles. To me she was a superstar, a warrior, a Goddess of mythical proportions. And she still is.

Lina is exactly the same woman today she was 25 years ago when we met. She was obsessed with Barbie dolls, often making their couture outfits herself, and that obsession has grown into the theme of her YouTube talk show In The Dollhouse With Lina, now moving into its third series. She is a sought-after DJ, playing for crowds across the globe, corporate events, and even spinning on ABC’s The View for her pal Whoopi Goldberg’s birthday celebration.

Lina showed me what it meant to be authentic, to be unfailingly yourself, all those years ago when we didn’t have a transgender movement and when LGBTQ rights were a distant hope for the future. She did it all with an infectious laugh, killer style, and the ability to leave you emotionally moved beyond compare. She was truly ahead of her time, and the world is now cluing in to her vibration. She was, and is, her own work of art. To label Lina is to limit who and what she is. She is a force. She is an energy. She is everything manifested as newness, charisma, talent and light. Her spirituality runs deep, and one has to only visit her Facebook page to find her daily words of inspiration and affirmation, like this one from April 24, 2017,

“I will speak only positive words of faith and victory over myself, my family, and my future. I will not use my words to describe my situation. I will use my words to change my situation. I will call in favor, good breaks, healing, and restoration. I will not talk to God about how big my problems are. I will talk to my problems about how big my God is. This is my declaration.”

I spoke with her last week and followed up by sending her some questions I wanted her take on. I am so fortunate that we are still in each other’s lives, and I cheer her on with every success she adds to her roster. DJ, actress, dancer, entertainer, talk-show host, board member of GMHC, and friend. That’s who Lina Bradford is to me, and it’s my honour and responsibility to use my voice to help elevate her to the heights that have been her birthright.

Q – Meeting you was the first time I had met someone whom I truly believed had a body whose gender did not align with the energy that animated it, with the expression that was meant to be shared with the world. Talk to me about your experience as a transgender woman.

A – Well I have always been Spiritually connected and with this comes self awareness and discovery. I have never felt disconnected to my body. My Being has always been an alarm clock with which to morph, and when I speak to young transgender children I explain, “Allow yourself 2 know yourself, be a well rounded Being b4 anything, then alignment will bring you where & when it’s meant to be”. So my Essence is & will always be of All & One, of embodying both my masculinity & femininity. It is key in my Life as balance, back then & always.


Q – Do you agree with the spiritual teaching that we are not our bodies, but rather the energy that animates them?

A – I am on another planet with that (philosophy and belief), however in being here with where you’re coming from, it’s a 💯 Yes!!

Q – Tell me what you believe to be true about why we are here and what we are meant to do with our time.

A – I myself have lived numerous moments, so I know that there’s too much out there to be swayed and (influenced) by what mainstream society sells you on!

Q – What do you believe is your dharma, your mission, what you alone are supposed to bring to the rest of us in the world?

A – I have always known by spiritual guides and the two cherubs on my shoulders that I am a people person, and bringing together lights and energy is my job. I know my purpose and live it daily. Princess of light.

Q – In the 25 years that we’ve known each other, I have never seen you defeated, never seen you afraid, never known you to be anything other than powerful and certain with every dance move, career move, acting gig and public appearance. How do you manage fear and anxiety in your life? How do you deal with them? 

A – Thank jew so dearly for those words, I regard you high in my book of love. Being connected and receptive to Energy & The Universe keeps me so rite 4 my blood type, so to say. I am steered away from negativity and kept on my path. Nothing can slow my roll!!!

Q – I’ve spoken and written about our echoes, essentially giving a name to the energy we each project into the world and which trails behind in our wake, outlasting us after our bodies die. What do you want to leave behind for the world after this body goes and the Self moves onto the next phase of its manifestation?

A – I think we all want to be remembered for whatever beautiful accomplishments we’ve done in our life, and what I want to leave behind is the love and light that I see and bring out of the people. That’s what makes me shine on the daily.


Q – What do you want the world to know? Based on your life lessons and overcoming adversity, what wisdom would you share with the world?

A – Never feel defeated. We have the power to heal and take our selves anywhere we want. When you believe in yourself you sell yourself to the rest of the world, you are EVERNESS!!!

For all Lina-related info, visit her website at http://djlina.com/.